Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Don We Now (you know where I'm going with this)

With Christmas coming up, I want to give myself the gift of rambling.

First, I still believe in the spirit of our highly-commercialized and pagan-festival-orientated holiday. Puritans outlawed it for having nothing to do with the birth of Christ, but we don't have any great indication of when that happened exactly, so why not now? Why not celebrate during the winter solstice, when the world (or at least our hemisphere of it) is at its darkest, acknowledge and hold up light, goodness, and love. Christ was and is about reconciling people to God - and, yes, Virginia, I do believe in God, and showing them how much they are loved. Not condemned, not hated, not excluded, not marginalized.

And I believe in the transformative power of God's love (along with action on our part) to change the hearts and minds of those who want to practice (and legalize) their bigotry, ignorance, and intolerance. I'm tempted to fully elaborate my "darkest before the dawn / light in darkness" allegory to the currrent state of all things gay in America, but I won't, as my holiday gift to you.

Christmas carols - I love them, but rarely the ones I love the most. They're all great except Jingle Bell Rock which must be pre-programmed to play just as I turn on the radio. But my very, very favorites are rarely heard.

Good King Wenceslas

Do You Hear What I Hear

We Three Kings

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

I just realized my top three carols all involve kings - queen envy perhaps?

And what tops my Christmas list this year, he says in full-commercialized, pagan-holiday reborn mode?

Planet Simpson

The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things

The Ultimate Matrix Collection

The Art of the Incredibles

Looney Tunes Vol 2 DVD


The Complete Far Side

The True History of Chocolate


All of that just for a peek inside my twisted little mind, not so that you'll go to Amazon and look up my wish list and order me something. No really. Aww, you shouldn't have.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Heaven Help Us

The following news item (found on 365gay.com) fills me with complete dread:

(Atlanta, Georgia) Thousands of African Americans marched Saturday to denounce same-sex marriage, invoking the name of slain civil rights leader martin Luther King to the anger of many gays and lesbians.

The march was organized by Bishop Eddie Long whose New Birth Missionary Baptist Church is one of the biggest black churches in the country.

The unofficial parade count was set at 15,000.

The church's website called the march a rally for traditional marriage and proclaims marriage between one man and one woman must be protected. Long has called for a national ban on same-sex marriage.

Standing with him at the King Center was Bernice King, one of King's daughters who is an elder in Long's church. Bernice King lit a torch at her father's grave and passed it on to Long, who carried it through the march. "I believe this day will go down in the history books as the greatest showing of Christ and His kingdom in this century," she said, calling Long and her father prophets.

Her participation in the rally and march illustrated the deep divisions both within the black community and the King over same-sex marriage. Dr. King's widow, Coretta Scott King, has said on a number of occasions that her husband would have supported gay marriage.
"A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing, and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages," she said during a speech last March at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

Today's march also angered gay civil rights leaders who accused Long of hijacking Dr King's memory.

The National Black Justice Coalition, the country's only national gay black organization, issued a statement prior to the march calling it "a slap in the face to the legacy of Dr. King." (story)

"Dr. King said injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, but Bishop Long seems to think that injustice against gays and lesbians is perfectly fine," said NBJC Board president Keith Boykin.

Boykin also noted that one of King's closest advisers, Bayard Rustin, was an openly gay man.

I am deeply thankful of the stance that Mrs. Coretta Scott has taken in regards to gay marriage. I am embarrassed for Dr. and Mrs. King that their daughter does not share her parents' view of equality for all Americans.

Although I loathe the intolerance and hatred of all Christians regarding gays, I am especially troubled by this perspective by black Christians. It is both ignorant and hypocritical. Any black person coming out against gay rights is effectively announcing that we are not entitled to the same rights he/she acquired. It's a selfish attitude: I have mine and I won't share. It belittles the huge contribution of Bayard Rustin to black civil rights. Mr. Rustin was a close advisor to Dr. King. He would willingly hide in a car if he was riding with Dr. King because others felt uncomfortable with him being a known homosexual. He sacrificed his own self-worth and identity so a movement would prosper. Black civil rights could not have happened without white/majority allies, yet these men and women will not be allies for those in a different minority. These are small, selfish, deeply bigoted people.

It is a monumental display of ignorance. Black Christians who would use the Bible against homosexuals should remember that the Bible was used to justify slavery and prohibitions against black civil rights and interracial marriage. Fearful and hateful white people twisted the Bible to use it as a weapon against you and now you take this rifle, passed on to you from other bigots, and hold it to the temple of gay civil rights.

This is ignorance of what the Bible truly says about gays and gay marriage. It is ignorance of the revelations God continues to give us about His Word and how to use it for modern times. Women may now speak in church, slavery is not acceptible, and the only law we are bound to is the Law of Love.

It is fantastically ignorant of the fact that your rights are untouchable. Black people had to fight hard to gain them, but they are hardly secure. There are those in power who would happily rob you of them right from under your nose. It will start with gays, but it will creep into the black community through limiting the rights of black muslims and continue through other "dissident" groups. All Americans' rights have already been infringed upon by the Patriot Act; a minority group's rights are even more unstable and unsure.

It is this shameful ignornace that recalls another minister, whose words are often repeated, but cannot be heard enough:

"When Hitler attacked the Jews I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists, I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned. Then Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church -- and there was nobody left to be concerned. "

Pastor Martin Niemoller , survivor of the Nazi Holocaust.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Ape Nation

Warren Ellis, a writer of some of the best comic books you can read today (and if you're not reading comic books, you should be - get over the Bam! Pow! Whap! stereotype - some of the best art can be found in comics today) sent this today over his mailing list "Bad Signal" (Warren is a Brit, btw):

I think it was after [the second Presidential debate] that some BushPR handler went off at a journalist, claiming that people out in the great Heartland of America were going for Bush because, quote, "they like the way he walks, they like the way he talks, they like the way he points to things." That weird alpha-monkey gait of his, with the palms facing backwards and the squared shoulders, is actually an ape-community tell denoting the leader.

Seriously.Clear Channel, the monolithic radio entity over there, has just bought in Fox as their news provider. Fox, of which I've had only the briefest of tastes, seems to me to be basically a right-wing den of liars. It's no wonder Air America are hysterical -- the right wing have sold the idea that the media is liberal and that their voice is the underdog. Meanwhile, you need to sacrifice a goat and pray for a strong north wind to be able to receive Air America in much ofthe country. And when left-wing thought does break wide, as in the works of Michael Moore -- well, that just proves the media is liberal, right?

Can the American right wing really be damned for learning how to play the game better than the left? When the Liberal Voice is making it this easy for them? Ann Coulter may be Crazy and Evil, but she's funny.People are currently up in arms over her comments about Canada, but, you know, she's on TV. She's paid to be a dancing monkey. You want people to pay less attention to her? Dance better.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Common Cents

There's still hope even in the wilderness...

From 365gay.com

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco has signed an Executive Order prohibiting employment discrimination against gay and lesbian state government employees. The Order also requires any business contracting with the state to have a non-discrimination policy covering their lesbian and gay workers.
The order is almost identical to the one signed by Governor Edwin Edwards at the beginning of his last term, but also includes harassment.

The order bans harassment and discrimination on the part of supervisors in their dealings with state workers. It also applies to state employees in their dealings with residents seeking benefits or services from the state.
"Because her order includes state service contracts, it reaches into the private sector, thereby protecting even more minority citizens from employment discrimination," said Christopher Daigle, a spokesperson for Equality Louisiana.

Must Not-See TV

And following ABC's unnecessary and insulting piece on Matthew Shepard's murder, follows CBS and NBC with their own particular pandering to the Religious Right.

These bozos are refusing to run an add by the United Church of Christ (not to be confused with the fundamentalist protestant denomination Church of Christ) that shows gays, a black woman, a hispanic man and other minority groups being turned away by two bouncers at church doors while a white traditional family is let through. The add then continues "Jesus didn't turn away people. Neither do we." You can view the video here.

NBC refuses to air based on no airing controversial ads. Suggesting that some churches don't include some populations is apparently a dangerous and radical message.

CBS allegedly told the UCC that "[b]ecause this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples...and the fact that the executive branch has recently proposed a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast." CBS now refuses to comment on whether they actual said this or not, although they confirm the ad banned. Perhaps that is for the best given that the ad says nothing even remotely related to same-sex marriage. Clearly CBS has picked up on the message the the FMA (or now the Marriage Protection Amendment) isn't truly about protecting marriage, but further marginalizing gays and lesbians as something other than an American citizen and certainly not as a person of worth.

I like what Rev. John Thomas, UCC general minister and president, has to say about all of this: "It is ironic that after a political season awash in commercials based on fear and deception by both parties seen on all major networks, an ad with a message of welcome and inclusion would be deemed too controversial. We find it disturbing that the networks in question seem to have no problem exploiting gay persons through mindless comedies or titillating dramas, but when it comes to the church's loving welcome of committed gay couples, that's where they draw the line."

Other stations airing it include AMC, BET, Discovery, Fox, Hallmark, History, Nick@Nite, TBS, TNT, Travel and TV Land. Of particular interest is that ABC Family will air it (and did - I saw it while watching old Rankin Bass animation Christmas specials).

Looks like I'm going to have to quit watching all the mainstream channels...and I was so enjoying the Apprentice this season. Survivor has been fun too and decidedly lestastic (although it seems like some creative editing omitted a kiss between one couple during a surprise visit to the island).

Sooner or later I'm going to get around to posting my recant of the role that moral values (specificially religious fundamentalist values) played in this election. Although seemingly significant, further analysis suggests that the Relgious Right, while still dangerous, and obviously with a firm grip on the testicles of CBS and NBC, didn't play quite as significant a role as perhaps they (and we) think they did.

It's a travesity that for all the crap and dreck these networks spend money to push the receding intellect of America even further that they can't be bothered to accept revenue from somebody with a positive, affirming message. However, the problem isn't that UCC is too controversial or advocating any stance. The problem is they are challenging the status quo. They dared to send a message that might cause Mr. or Mrs. America to think they aren't as tolerant, broad-minded, or fair as they care to think they are. UCC had the audacity to confront the modern-day pharisees and tell them that they are not practicing the love and inclusion that Christ lived and taught. It's not a feel-good namby pamby "boy I could have figured that out for myself if I had half a brain" The More You Know segment. It hits people where it matters. For some that feels good, for others it hurts. And when you tackle the bully, the bully tries to shut you down.

Info from 356gay.com and beliefnet for resources on this story

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Art and Science of Biblical Interpretation

One of my best friends, John, who is a medical doctor, married, father of two, agnostic, lives in a small eastern Tennessee town, and all around swell guy sent the following email to me:

My bible reading project has not started yet. Sodom and Gamora is the most often quoted argument I hear around hear, and usually just the fact that I bring up an alternative view of why Sodom and Gamora are destroyed they start backpeddeling which tells me that most people use the Bible to argue position having never read the source. They are simply taking someone elses interpretation.

In medicine (which is more art than science every day that I practice) I used to take as fact things that were taught to me by respected professors.
Now that I have read some of the source material myself I have found many things in medicine are done on tradition and there is no good evidence for some practices. So I can imagine if I have come across so many instances of misinterpretation in medicine that Biblical lore is probably worse.

John explained in his initial email to me that people around him constantly bring up Sodom and Gomorrah when explaining the sins of gay marriage or homosexuality in general. But, as I explained to John, that's one of the worst passages they could use to justify their righteous indignation.

If you start thinking about it, it's hard to see a story involving gang rape as an indictment against consentual homosexual relationships. It's gets a little more difficult when you realize that Lot offers his daughters to appease the violent crowd. I don't think female virgins would placate a mob of rabid queers.When the the prophet Ezekiel discusses this incident later, he states the sin specifically: "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy." (Ezekiel 16:49 -KJV)

So, please pick a more artful argument next time.

But John makes an excellent point about the art of Biblical interpretation. While John continues to erode the little trust I had in modern medicine with his revelations of how so much of it is a guessing game, he properly illuminates a problem with modern theology, particularly within the evangelical/fundamentalist community.

Most followers don't take the time to check out the source material. They believe what they are fed by popular pundits, local pastors, tradition or even fictional literature. (The Left Behind series is an immensely popular book series based on a particular interpretation of the Book of Revelations, a theological bent that the authors insist is The Truth.) Modern church-goers might know their Bible verses forward and backwards and follow along when prompted during sermons, but few take time to truly read the Bible contextually. And this type of reading is no easy task.

Reading any book is more work than people typically consider. There is a whole field of study on the reading process and how we make meaning of what we read. Even casting the process of reading aside, when reading the Bible, one must read it with the appropriate surrounding text to understand the full context. To single any one verse out, as many ministers seem to base their sermons on, actually robs that verse of its full meaning. Nobody would dream of reading any other book or poem this way, yet modern Christians regularly use the Bible verse by out-of-context verse.

Understanding the Bible is further complicated by the need to understand some the words' original meanings in Hebrew or Greek. You have to understand ancient culture. You have to understand that some words were used differently than they are now and a direct translation of the word does not necessarily convey the author's intended meaning or frame of reference. All of these components, and more, is fundamental to truly understanding what is being said. How many evangelicals even know that the gospels were handed down orally and were not transcribed until decades after those events happened? How many understand the concept of the synoptic gospels? I certainly never learned these things in church, and I doubt many people do.

Given all the work it takes to understand the words that have been passed down to us, it's not surprising that most people don't undertake it (many probably are not aware that this much work is necessary). Instead, interpretation is left up to ministers, who while certainly qualified, are trained in certain traditions and schools of theology, bringing their own biases, prejudices, preconceptions, and, yes, agendas into the interpretive mix. I often wonder how many ministers get to seminary, come to different conclusions that what they are being taught based on their own work, yet still go along with the denominational line because that is an easier path to tread.

Karl Marx said that relgion is the opium of the masses. And, for those churches that do not teach their parishioners about how to read the Bible for themsleves, he's right. I certainly believe that fundamentalism, a characteristic of the Religious Right, is an anti-intellectual movement. It ignores or belittles a historical-critical analysis of the Bible. Fundamentalism insists that you turn off your brain not just at the church door, but at the Bible cover.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Common Cents

And interrupting my blogging flow for a quick news check will be my new semi-regular featurette (semi-regular meaning whenever I feel like mentioning something without adding much commentary to it) Common Cents.

Common Cents will be quick news snippets that show some positive event or progress for gay people, particularly here in the States.

To inaugurate this new feature, we have from the November 30th edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education:

"Colleges that bar military recruiters from their campuses because the armed forces discriminate against gay men and lesbians cannot be penalized with the loss of federal funds, a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled on Monday.

In the 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said the Constitution's guarantee of free speech prohibits the government from requiring colleges to endorse a message they disagree with. The decision halts enforcement of a decade-old law, known as the Solomon Amendment, that allows the government to withhold Department of Defense money from colleges that do not provide access to military recruiters.

Last month, Congress expanded the law to apply to colleges that do not provide the recruiters with access "equal in quality and scope" to that offered to nonmilitary recruiters. Such institutions are now barred from receiving funds from the Defense Department and defense-related funds from other federal agencies as well.

In the past, some law schools have limited military recruiters' access to their campuses because the Defense Department's policy of excluding openly gay men and women from the military services ran afoul of the schools' antidiscrimination policies. Warrington S. Parker III, a lawyer for a coalition of law schools and others challenging the Solomon Amendment, said Monday's decision means that colleges can again "follow their nondiscrimination policies."


Daniel Mach, a lawyer who represented the American Association of Law Schools, said that nondiscrimination policies send an "important message of diversity and tolerance" that is "vitally important to law schools' mission."

The court, in an opinion written by Judge Thomas L. Ambro, found that the Solomon Amendment violated colleges' First Amendment rights by compelling them to "propagate, accommodate and subsidize the military's message." The ruling cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing the Boy Scouts of America to exclude a gay assistant scoutmaster because "homosexual conduct is inconsistent with ... the Scout oath."

"Just as the Boy Scouts believed that 'homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the Scout Oath,' ... the law schools believe that employment discrimination is inconsistent with their commitment to justice and fairness," the opinion states.

"The Solomon Amendment requires law schools to express a message that is incompatible with their educational objectives, and no compelling governmental interest has been shown to deny this ruling," the opinion concludes. "

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Crucified Again

Although I agree with some that Matthew Shepard, as a very disturbed and troubled young man, has become far too mythic in proportion, the heinousness of the crime perpetrated upon him cannot be overstated. The immensely cruel and brutal evil that befell poor Matthew is unthinkable and cannot be forgotten. And while we cannot live in fear of the same happening to us, we must never think we are immune from such inexplicable violence.

And, yet, somehow ABC decided to run a story that would suggest that the men who tortured and killed Matthew did so out essentially because of a drug deal gone bad, rather than because he was gay.

And my first response is, "does it matter why they killed him?" And not just killed him, but tortured and crucified the boy. It reeks of someone trying to make excuses. It reeks of a media outlet trying to pander to a perception that many viewers are anti-gay.

In any event, this sort of investigation provides no redeeming feature or merit. It advances no cause, except perhaps the one that would see Matthew as the creator and ultimate reaper of his own circumstances. The insinuation appears to be that had Matthew not been a drug-adled queer looking for sinful man-sex, he would still be alive.

I normally would not weigh in on a program I had not personally viewed. I was, and still am, so offended at the basic premise of the show, however, I could not bring myself to watch it. Even if the show managed to convince me that it wasn't a gay-bashing to the nth degree (and that would take a lot of convincing) , it wouldn't change the fact that the man in question is a killer and his vicitm, regardless of his faults, didn't deserve death, particularly a slow, inhumane, degrading death.

I would boycott ABC, but they don't have anything of quality on to watch in the first place. For responses to the "news" story aired on 20/20, you can start by visiting
GLAAD's analysis of the story

the response of the Matthew Shepard Foundation

Also echoing many of my statements, along with some additional insights, are John Rowe's observations here.

On Golden Porn

I've been out of town for both work and vacation the past two weeks, and during that time so much happened that I hardly know where to start. Topics cover the spectrum of the rainbow to frivolous to the deadly serious.

Let's start with some levity before we dive into deeper waters.

From VH1's Best Week Ever segment "What You're Celebrating This Year":

If you bought The Golden Girls Season 1, you're celebrating cosmopolitans, tiny dogs, and hot sweaty man on man sex.

I presume they're not referring to any nude scenes with Bea Arthur.